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Living Standards in the Past: New Perspectives on Well-Being in Asia and Europe

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Editor Info

  • Allen, Robert C.
    (Professor of Economic History, University of Oxford)
  • Bengtsson, Tommy
    (Professor of Demography and Economic History, Lund University)
  • Dribe, Martin
    (Associate Professor of Economic History, Lund University)

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Abstract

Why did Europe experience industrialisation and modern economic growth before China, India or Japan? This is one of the most fundamental questions in Economic History and one that has provoked intense debate. The main concern of this book is to determine when the gap in living standards between the East and the West emerged. The established view, dating back to Adam Smith, is that the gap emerged long before the Industrial Revolution, perhaps thousands of years ago. While this view has been called into question - and many of the explanations for it greatly undermined - the issue demands much more empirical research than has yet been undertaken. How did the standard of living in Europe and Asia compare in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries? The present book proposes an answer by considering evidence of three sorts. The first is economic, focusing on income, food production, wages, and prices. The second is demographic, comparing heights, life expectancy and other demographic indicators. The third combines the economic and demographic by investigating the demographic vulnerability to short-term economic stress. The contributions show the highly complex and diverse pattern of the standard of living in the pre-industrial period. The general picture emerging is not one of a great divergence between East and West, but instead one of considerable similarities. These similarities not only pertain to economic aspects of standard of living but also to demography and the sensitivity to economic fluctuations. In addition to these similarities, there were also pronounced regional differences within the East and within the West - regional differences that in many cases were larger than the average differences between Europe and Asia. This clearly highlights the importance of analysing several dimensions of the standard of living, as well as the danger of neglecting regional, social, and household specific differences when assessing the level of well-being in the past. Contributors to this volume - Kenneth Pomeranz, University of California, Irvine Li Bozhong, Tsinghua University Osamu Saito, Hitotsubashi University Prasannan Parthasarathi, Boston College Robert C. Allen, Oxford University P. Hoffman, D. Jacks, P. Levin and P. Lindert, California Institute of Technology and University of California, Davis Jan Luiten van Zanden, IISG Jaime Reis, University of Lisbon Richard Steckel, Ohio State University Boris Mironov, St. Petersburg State University E. Hammel and A. Gullickson, University of California, Berkley and Columbia University Hans Christian Johansen, University of Southern Denmark M. Breschi, A. Fornasin, and G. Gonano, University of Udine T. Bengtsson and M. Dribe, Lund University M. Oris, G. Alter and M. Neven, University of Geneva, Indiana University and University of Liege C. Campbell and J. Lee, UCLA and University of Michigan N.Tsuya and S. Kurosu, Keio University and Keitaku University

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Bibliographic Info

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This book is provided by Oxford University Press in its series OUP Catalogue with number 9780199280681 and published in 2005.

ISBN: 9780199280681
Order: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199280681.do
Handle: RePEc:oxp:obooks:9780199280681

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Cited by:
  1. Pim de Zwart, 2011. "Real wages at the Cape of Good Hope: A long-term perspective, 1652-1912," Working Papers 0013, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  2. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
  3. Kurosaki, Takashi, 2011. "Wages in Kind and Economic Development: Historical and Contemporary Evidence from Asia," PRIMCED Discussion Paper Series 11, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  4. Voigtländer, Nico & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2009. "The Three Horsemen of Growth: Plague, War and Urbanization in Early Modern Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 7275, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Studer, Roman, 2008. "India and the Great Divergence: Assessing the Efficiency of Grain Markets in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century India," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(02), pages 393-437, June.
  6. repec:cge:warwcg:55 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Tracy Dennison & Steven Nafziger, 2011. "Micro-Perspectives on Living Standards in Nineteenth-Century Russia," Department of Economics Working Papers 2011-07, Department of Economics, Williams College.

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